Family Statement Delivered At the Church
Service by Samir F. Fuleihan
Kirk in the Hills, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Thursday November 11, 1999
was this gentle 92-year-old man who has been visiting with us.
Most of you have seen him around and you suggested to us that he has
touched you in one way or the other.
I often heard you describing him as “such a sweet man, a
gentleman, a real gentleman, such a polite man; so respectful and so
Yesterday night, as I was preparing my statement, I came across the Diary of our late mother. My mother, Hana, passed away in 1985 and since then my dad was never the same. She wrote in her high school diary, as she was dreaming about her future partner in life; “Very often I think of my future life, home and partner. I must be wise enough to choose a suitable husband in order to live in peace and gladness. I like him to be about seven years older than me, to look brave, handsome and gentle; to be generous, wise, honorable, faithful, unselfish, hard working, ambitious, kind, sport, frank and a serious man."
Our mother did meet this man in a
tiny church in the village of Ain Zhalta, Lebanon. Ain Zhalta is a
beautiful little village in Mount Lebanon perched between pines trees,
vineyards, apple groves and cedar trees. Out of this union came the five
of us: Amin our eldest brother, deceased in 1991 and buried next to my
late mother in Orlando, Florida. Fuad (from Greece), his wife Mary Ann and
their children Farid (in Boston), Nadia (in South Africa) and Ramsey who
is here tonight and always was a joy to his grandfather.
Myself, Samir, and my daughter Leila who was so special to Dad.
Nadim (from Orlando), his wife Joyce and their children, Christina
Hana and Antony Amin.
Last but not least, Camille (from Boston), our youngest brother.
The real story of Dad goes back
to the time when his father, our grandfather Amin, was born in Ain Zhalta
in 1861. At about the same time (1866) an American Presbyterian mission
established the Syrian Protestant College, which later became known as the
American University of Beirut. Grandfather graduated with an M.D. from the
University in 1886.
When Dad was born in 1907 his fate and mission were intertwined
with the mission of the American University of Beirut.
Dad attended the University, graduated in 1929 with honors, and
served as the Registrar and then Director of Personnel for over forty years.
Dad was one of those people born
at the turn of the century who was led by guiding values and principles.
He was gentle, just, fair, and open-minded – still, he had commitment,
strength of character, resilience and did not waiver to uphold the
principles and values he believed in.
External appearances, riches and the surfaces did not sway him. It
was always the core.
It was these principles that he taught us.
He taught us to respect all the beliefs, the various religions, cultures and
ethnic groups of the region.
All these principles were greatly emphasized in our upbringing.
Finally, as I said in the
opening, Dad was 92. He came to visit me in Michigan about four months
ago. Initially, I thought that with him around, my chores would be
soon I realized that having him with me was a blessing.
I slept better and worked harder. At work I was told I am looking
more energetic than ever before and I was asked whether I am taking any
hormones. I realized that Dad has transferred a lot of inner strength and
energy to me, even though his body was failing.
The day before he passed I called my brother Camille and told him I
am going to keep our Dad for a longer time in Michigan. Camille was beside
himself. He wanted Dad back with him in Boston. He said “It is not fair,
Dad has left for a few weeks only, but this has gone on for too long”.
He said he wanted Dad back in Boston because he needed him.
Our dad was listening on the phone and he heard it all.
Now I understand the meaning of the old Arabic saying, “Whomever
does not have an old person, should borrow one."
In summary, Dad was our Best Friend!
Dad requested that his remains be buried next to mother's and that the tombstone should read:
is Our Hope.”
In closing, I would like to
recite some verses extracted from a poem by Kahlil Gibran, titled “The
Beauty of Death” (1914) and dedicated to Mary Elizabeth Haskell.
“Let me sleep, for my soul is
intoxicated with love, and
Let me rest, for my spirit has
had its bounty of days and nights;
Come close and bid me farewell;
Touch my eyes with smiling lips,
Let the children grasp my hands
with soft and rosy fingers;
Let the aged place their veined
hands upon my head and bless me;
Take my body from the ivory
casket and let it rest
Upon pillows of orange blossoms.
Carry me upon your friendly
Carry me to the cypress woods
Cover me with soft earth, and let
each handful be mixed
With seeds of Jasmine, lilies and
Lament me not, but sing songs of
youth and joy;
Shed no tears upon me,
no signs of agony,
let your hearts sing with me the song of Eternal Life;
have passed a mountain peak and my soul is soaring in the
of complete and unbound freedom;
am cloaked in full whiteness;
am in comfort; I am in peace."